Jakarta Sinking Below Sea Level

Threats Rising Due To Climate Change, Development

By Michael Kimmelman, New York Times

With climate change, the Java Sea is rising and weather here is becoming more extreme. Earlier this month another freakish storm briefly turned Jakarta’s streets into rivers and brought this vast area of nearly 30 million residents to a virtual halt.

One local climate researcher, Irvan Pulungan, an adviser to the city’s governor, fears that temperatures may rise several degrees Fahrenheit, and the sea level as much as three feet in the region, over the coming century.

That, alone, spells potential disaster for this teeming metropolis.

But global warming turned out not to be the only culprit behind the historic floods that overran Rasdiono’s bodega and much of the rest of Jakarta in 2007. The problem, it turned out, was that the city itself is sinking.

Jakarta and climate change

In fact, Jakarta is sinking faster than any other big city on the planet, faster, even, than climate change is causing the sea to rise — so surreally fast that rivers sometimes flow upstream, ordinary rains regularly swamp neighborhoods and buildings slowly disappear underground, swallowed by the earth. The main cause: Jakartans are digging illegal wells, drip by drip draining the underground aquifers on which the city rests — like deflating a giant cushion underneath it. About 40 percent of Jakarta now lies below sea level.

Coastal districts, like Muara Baru, near the Blessed Bodega, have sunk as much as 14 feet in recent years. Not long ago I drove around northern Jakarta and saw teenagers fishing in the abandoned shell of a half-submerged factory. The banks of a murky canal lapped at the trestle of a railway bridge, which, until recently, had arched high over it.

Climate change acts here as it does elsewhere, exacerbating scores of other ills. And in Jakarta’s case, a tsunami of human-made troubles — runaway development, a near-total lack of planning, next to no sewers and only a limited network of reliable, piped-in drinking water — poses an imminent threat to the city’s survival.

Sinking buildings, sprawl, polluted air and some of the worst traffic jams in the world are symptoms of other deeply rooted troubles. Distrust of government is a national condition. Conflicts between Islamic extremists and secular Indonesians, Muslims and ethnic Chinese have blocked progress, helped bring down reform-minded leaders and complicated everything that happens here, or doesn’t happen, to stop the city from sinking.

“Nobody here believes in the greater good, because there is so much corruption, so much posturing about serving the public when what gets done only serves private interests,” as Sidney Jones, the director of the local Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, put it. “There is no trust.”

Hydrologists say the city has only a decade to halt its sinking. If it can’t, northern Jakarta, with its millions of residents, will end up underwater, along with much of the nation’s economy. Eventually, barring wholesale change and an infrastructural revolution, Jakarta won’t be able to build walls high enough to hold back the rivers, canals and the rising Java Sea.

And even then, of course, if it does manage to heal its self-inflicted wounds, it still has to cope with all the mounting threats from climate change.

As far the eye can see, 21st-century Jakarta is a smoggy tangle of freeways and skyscrapers. Spread along the northwestern coast of Java, this capital of the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population used to be a soggy, bug-infested trading port for the Hindu kingdom of Sunda before local sultans took it over in 1527.

They named it Jayakarta, Javanese for victorious city.

Dutch colonists arrived a century later, establishing a base for the East India territories. Imagining a tropical Amsterdam, they laid out streets and canals to try to cope with water pouring in from the south, out of the forests and mountains, where rain falls nearly 300 days out of the year. Thirteen rivers feed into the city.

After independence in 1945, the city began to sprawl. Today, it is virtually impossible to walk around. Parks are rarer than Javan rhinos. A trip to the nearest botanical garden requires the better part of a day in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

“Living here, we don’t have other places to go,” said Yudi and Titi, a young professional couple who one recent Sunday had made the roughly hour’s round trip from western Jakarta to the center of the city just to spend a few minutes walking up and down a chaotic, multilane freeway briefly closed to traffic. “Without cars, at least you can breathe for a few minutes,” Titi said.

The most urgent problems are in North Jakarta, a coastal mash-up of ports, nautically themed high-rises, aged fish markets, abject slums, power plants, giant air-conditioned malls and the congested remnants of the colonial Dutch settlement, with its decrepit squares and streets of crumbling warehouses and dusty museums.

Some of the world’s most polluted canals and rivers weave a spider’s web through the area.

It is where the city is sinking fastest.

That’s because, after decades of reckless growth and negligent leadership, crises have lined up here like dominoes.

Jakarta’s developers and others illegally dig untold numbers of wells because water is piped to less than half the population at what published reports say are extortionate costs by private companies awarded government concessions.

The aquifers aren’t being replenished, despite heavy rains and the abundance of rivers, because more than 97 percent of Jakarta is now smothered by concrete and asphalt. Open fields that once absorbed rain have been paved over. Shores of mangroves that used to help relieve swollen rivers and canals during monsoons have been overtaken by shantytowns and apartment towers.

There is always tension between immediate needs and long-term plans. It’s a similar story in other sinking giants like Mexico City. Here, all of the construction, combined with the draining of the aquifers, is causing the rock and sediment on which Jakarta rests to pancake.

Read The Full Story About Jakarta, Indonesia

Obamas Vacation In Indonesia

Former U.S. President Lived In Jakarta, Yogyakarta

By Reuters

President Obama and his family have spent the past five days island-hopping in Indonesia, visiting everywhere from Jakarta to Bali. From white water rafting to visiting temples on Java, former U.S. President Barack Obama’s private family holiday is being closely tracked in Indonesia where he spent four years as a child.

Obama was six when he moved to Jakarta after his American mother, Ann Dunham, married an Indonesian man following the end of her marriage to Obama’s Kenyan father.

“I feel proud that my friend became a president,” said Sonni Gondokusumo, 56, a former classmate of Obama at the Menteng 01 state elementary school in Jakarta.

Obama visits Java

Gondokusumo showed a class photograph of himself standing behind a young Obama, who was wearing a school beret.

“He was a clever boy. Whenever a teacher asked him to solve a problem in front of the class, he could do it,” Gondokusomo told Reuters, adding he hoped to meet the former president again.

Obama remains popular in the world’s most populous Muslim nation and his trip has been splashed across the media during an extended public holiday to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The Rakyat Merdeka newspaper carried a headline “Obama loves Indonesia.”

Obama returned for an official visit as president in 2010 with his wife, Michelle, but this time has brought daughters Malia and Sasha as well.

Indonesians are avid social media users and snaps of the former U.S. president walking with his family in rice fields and rafting on Bali’s Ayung River have gone viral.

Obama kicked off the holiday on the island of Bali, where he stayed at the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Bali near the cultural center of Ubud. On Wednesday, Obama and his family arrived in the city of Yogyakarta and visited the ancient temple of Borobudur.

Borobudur Java Indonesia

According to CNN Indonesia, Central Java police deployed 700 officers to secure his visit to Borobudur, a Buddhist temple dating from the 8th and 9th centuries.

Obama is due to meet President Joko Widodo on Friday at the palace in Bogor, south of Jakarta, and visit the capital on Saturday.

Indonesia Travel News via https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-usa-obama-idUSKBN19J1JT

Language and Travel Guide To Indonesia

Crossbow Communications specializes in international marketing, issue management and public affairs. Indonesia is one of our regions of expertise. Our President and founder is the author of the Language and Travel Guide to Indonesia. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com. Visit Indonesia.

Orangutan Expert Urges Travel To Indonesia Now

Deforestation Pushing Orangutans Toward Extinction

By Kelly Dinardo, New York Times

It was the orangutan’s eyes that first struck Biruté Mary Galdikas. “They look very human,” said Dr. Galdikas, an anthropologist and the president of Orangutan Foundation International. “They have a very strong gaze that will penetrate you,” she said. “It’s almost hypnotic.”

In the early ’70s, Dr. Galdikas traveled from Los Angeles to the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan on Borneo island to study the red-haired primates. She has spent much of the last 45 years on the island, researching the orangutan and fighting to protect its habitat.

Birutie Galdikas Camp Leakey Indonesia

For decades, Dr. Galdikas was one of the few travelers to the inner region of Borneo. Getting there required an arduous journey and there was little infrastructure once one arrived. Government investment in the region and a smattering of eco-lodges and expedition companies are changing that.

The draw for most visitors is Camp Leakey, the research and education center in Tanjung Puting National Park that Dr. Galdikas established and named for her mentor, Louis Leakey, the paleontologist, archaeologist and anthropologist. Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Dr. Galdikas about Kalimantan, Camp Leakey and the orangutans.

Q. How has Kalimantan changed?

A. In 1971 when I first went there, it was one of the wildest places left on earth. There were still headhunters on the interior. There were no roads. Rivers were the only highways.

How has tourism changed?

Tourism began in this area only about 20 years ago. I remember a pamphlet that the government issued that told people what a tourist was, what you did with a tourist. One of the wonderful things about Indonesia is the warm, gracious people. They treat tourists as guests.

We have encouraged tourism. We wanted to bring tourists to increase awareness of the orangutans. At Camp Leakey, we see up to 15,000 a year from all over the world. The local people saw them coming in and built up the tourism industry. The good thing is that the money stays in the area. The cooks are local. The guides are local. The boats are local. That’s one of the reasons the local people are so supportive.

Birutie Galdikas Camp Leakey

What do visitors do or see at Camp Leakey?

After you go into the education center, you can walk to the feeding station. Once a day, the orangutans are provided with fruit and they usually come through the trees to the feeding platform. The feeding lasts two hours and some people watch them the whole time.

The time to come is now. I went to see the gorillas in Rwanda and there are only a limited number of visitors allowed. There are very strict rules. It’s wise. The national park at Tanjung Puting has investigated what it would take to set up a system like that. There’s no limit at this point. It’s not necessary yet. You get very intimate encounters with the orangutans at Camp Leakey.

Besides increasing awareness, how has tourism impacted the orangutans?

So far it’s mainly been good. The tourism is controlled. You can only come to the feeding [at Camp Leakey]. You’re not allowed to wander alone in the forest. It enhances the value of the park to the local people and then they will fight for it. Tourism directly benefits the orangutans. It makes the local people want to protect them.

The main issue for orangutans in Southeast Asia is palm oil plantations. The forest needs to be cleared completely for the plantations.

Indonesia forest conservation

Orangutans spend 90 percent of their time in the tree canopy. When you cut down the trees, they have nowhere to go. We’re headed toward a point where most of the orangutans we see will be in captivity or at Tanjung Puting.

Indonesia Travel Update via http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/29/travel/birute-mary-galdikas-orangutan-expert-visiting-indonesia.html

Indonesia tourism marketing and public relations firm

Crossbow Communications specializes in international marketing, issue management and public affairs. Indonesia is one of our regions of expertise. Our President and founder is the author of the Language and Travel Guide to Indonesia. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com. Visit Indonesia.

Australian Tourists Now Enter Indonesia Free

Australians Granted Free Entry to Indonesia For 30 Days 

Aussies will no longer have to pay for a visa on arrival in Indonesia. Late last week President Joko Widodo​ signed a decree waiving the $35 visa requirements for another 79 countries, including Australia, bringing the list of visa-free countries to 169.

“Indonesia’s decision to add Australia to the list of countries visa-free is smart and timely,” ambassador Paul Grigson said. “We expect it to add approximately 3.4 trillion Rupiah ($239 million) into the economy of Indonesia.”

Bali monkey dance

More than 1 million Australians already visit Indonesia every year, contributing 18 trillion rupiah ($1.8 billion) to the local economy. The visa-free policy is part of a plan to lure more visitors to Indonesia, as the government aims to attract at least 20 million foreign tourists to the country over the next five years.

Australians who wish to stay in Indonesia for longer than 30 days or to conduct “journalistic activities” are still required to apply for a visa in Australia.

Indonesia recorded a 19 percent increase in tourists from countries that received visa-free access in 2015.

In March last year, amid tension between the countries over the execution of Bali nine heroin smugglers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, Indonesia removed Australia from a group of 45 countries whose tourist visa fees would be waived, blaming a lack of reciprocal arrangements.

In September, the Indonesian tourism minister again promised Australians would be granted visa-free access, before leaving them out of the policy that began on October 1.

In November the Australian government said it would introduce an option of a three-year, multiple-entry visa for Indonesian visitors to Australia in 2016 – an extension of the current one-year visa.

Mt. Merapi Java Indonesia

The government would also expand online visa lodgement to all Indonesian citizens by 2017, making the process of applying for an Australian visa simpler for Indonesian tourists and business people.

But Indonesia Institute president Ross Taylor said it was astonishing that while Australians would enjoy visa-free entry to Indonesia, the Australian government would still demand Indonesians pay $130 per person just to apply for a tourist visa.

“Then add to that we tell Indonesians to complete some 15 pages of questions per person,” he said. “And we wonder why so many Indonesians choose to travel elsewhere on holidays.”

Kuta Beach Bali

Indonesian Tourism News via: http://www.smh.com.au/world/australian-tourists-finally-granted-free-entry-to-indonesia-20160322-gnovx3.html#ixzz43kzYuC4D

Indonesia tourism marketing and public relations firm

Crossbow Communications specializes in international marketing, issue management and public affairs. Indonesia is one of our regions of expertise. Our President and founder is the author of the Language and Travel Guide to Indonesia. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com. Visit Indonesia.

Language and Travel Guide To Indonesia

Indonesia Marks 50th Anniversary Of Deadly Coup

Democracy, Justice Denied Across Indonesia

By Joshua Oppenheimer, New York Times Contributor

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of a mass slaughter in Indonesia. With American support, more than 500,000 people were murdered by the Indonesian Army and its civilian death squads. At least 750,000 more were tortured and sent to concentration camps, many for decades.

The victims were accused of being “communists,” an umbrella that included not only members of the legally registered Communist Party, but all likely opponents of Suharto’s new military regime — from union members and women’s rights activists to teachers and the ethnic Chinese. Unlike in Germany, Rwanda or Cambodia, there have been no trials, no truth-and-reconciliation commissions, no memorials to the victims. Instead, many perpetrators still hold power throughout the country.

Merdeka Square Monas National Monument Jakarta

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous nation, and if it is to become the democracy it claims to be, this impunity must end. The anniversary is a moment for the United States to support Indonesia’s democratic transition by acknowledging the 1965 genocide, and encouraging a process of truth, reconciliation and justice.

On Oct. 1, 1965, six army generals in Jakarta were killed by a group of disaffected junior officers. Maj. Gen. Suharto assumed command of the armed forces, blamed the killings on the leftists, and set in motion a killing machine. Millions of people associated with left-leaning organizations were targeted, and the nation dissolved into terror — people even stopped eating fish for fear that fish were eating corpses. Suharto usurped President Sukarno’s authority and established himself as de facto president by March 1966. From the very beginning, he enjoyed the full support of the United States.

I’ve spent 12 years investigating the terrible legacy of the genocide, creating two documentary films, “The Act of Killing” in 2013 and “The Look of Silence,” released earlier this year. I began in 2003, working with a family of survivors. We wanted to show what it is like to live surrounded by still-powerful perpetrators who had murdered your loved ones.

Look Of Silence Indonesia

The family gathered other survivors to tell their stories, but the army warned them not to participate. Many survivors urged me not to give up and suggested that I film perpetrators in hopes that they would reveal details of the massacres.

I did not know if it was safe to approach the killers, but when I did, I found them open. They offered boastful accounts of the killings, often with smiles on their faces and in front of their grandchildren. I felt I had wandered into Germany 40 years after the Holocaust, only to find the Nazis still in power.

Today, former political prisoners from this era still face discrimination and threats. Gatherings of elderly survivors are regularly attacked by military-backed thugs. Schoolchildren are still taught that the “extermination of the communists” was heroic, and that victims’ families should be monitored for disloyalty. This official history, in effect, legitimizes violence against a whole segment of society.

The purpose of such intimidation is to create a climate of fear in which corruption and plunder go unchallenged. Inevitably in such an atmosphere, human rights violations have continued since 1965, including the 1975-1999 occupation of East Timor, where enforced starvation contributed to the killing of nearly a third of the population, as well as torture and extrajudicial killing that go on in West Papua today.

Military rule in Indonesia formally ended in 1998, but the army remains above the law. If a general orders an entire village massacred, he cannot be tried in civilian courts. The only way he could face justice is if the army itself convenes a military tribunal, or if Parliament establishes a special human rights court — something it has never done fairly and effectively.

With the military not subject to law, a shadow state of paramilitaries and intelligence agencies has formed around it. This shadow state continues to intimidate the public into silence while, together with its business partners, it loots the national wealth.

Indonesia can hold regular elections, but if the laws do not apply to the most powerful elements in society, then there is no rule of law, and no genuine democracy. The country will never become a true democracy until it takes serious steps to end impunity. An essential start is a process of truth, reconciliation and justice.

This may still be possible. The Indonesian media, which used to shy from discussing the genocide, now refers to the killings as crimes against humanity, and grassroots activism has taken hold.

Joko Widodo

The current president, Joko Widodo, indicated he would address the 1965 massacre, but he has not established a truth commission, issued a national apology, or taken any other steps to end the military’s impunity.

We need truth and accountability from the United States as well. U.S. involvement dates at least to an April 1962 meeting between American and British officials resulting in the decision to “liquidate” President Sukarno, the populist — but not communist — founding father of Indonesia. As a founder of the nonaligned movement, Sukarno favored socialist policies; Washington wanted to replace him with someone more deferential to Western strategic and commercial interests.

The United States conducted covert operations to destabilize Sukarno and strengthen the military. Then, when genocide broke out, America provided equipment, weapons and money. The United States compiled lists containing thousands of names of public figures likely to oppose the new military regime, and handed them over to the Indonesian military, presumably with the expectation that they would be killed. Western aid to Suharto’s dictatorship, ultimately amounting to tens of billions of dollars, began flowing while corpses still clogged Indonesia’s rivers. The American media celebrated Suharto’s rise and his campaign of death. Time magazine said it was the “best news for years in Asia.”

But the extent of America’s role remains hidden behind a wall of secrecy: C.I.A. documents and U.S. defense attaché papers remain classified. Numerous Freedom of Information Act requests for these documents have been denied. Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, will soon reintroduce a resolution that, if passed, would acknowledge America’s role in the atrocities, call for declassification of all relevant documents, and urge the Indonesian government to acknowledge the massacres and establish a truth commission. If the U.S. government recognizes the genocide publicly, acknowledges its role in the crimes, and releases all documents pertaining to the issue, it will encourage the Indonesian government to do the same.

This anniversary should be a reminder that although we want to move on, although nothing will wake the dead or make whole what has been broken, we must stop, honor the lives destroyed, acknowledge our role in the destruction, and allow the healing process to begin.

Indonesia History via http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/30/opinion/suhartos-purge-indonesias-silence.html?_r=0

Indonesia tourism marketing and public relations firm

Crossbow Communications specializes in international marketing, issue management and public affairs. Indonesia is one of our regions of expertise. Our President and founder is the author of the Language and Travel Guide to Indonesia. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com. Visit Indonesia.

Language and Travel Guide To Indonesia

Indonesia Tourists Threaten Boycotts After Traffickers Executed

Little Impact Reported By Tour Operators

Travel operators in Australia say they do not expect a drop in the number of travelers to Indonesia, despite calls for a boycott after the execution of two Australians along with six others this week.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were among eight people executed by firing squad early Wednesday morning. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it “cannot be business as usual” with Indonesia, after the latest executions for drug trafficking.

Indonesia tourism

Australia withdrew its ambassador in response and there have been calls on social media to boycott Indonesia. Several companies said travelers showed few signs of being deterred.

“At the moment it doesn’t look like there’s been any impact so far on the demand,” said the Qantas Airways chief executive Alan Joyce. “Despite anger at the Indonesian government a lot of customers recognize that boycotting Bali is only going to damage the local population,” he added.

A spokesman for the Flight Centre travel group told the BBC the island of Bali had long been among the top three most popular destinations for Australian travelers.

“We have not had customers changing their holiday plans and we wouldn’t have expected to, as they would have been aware of this case when those bookings were made,” said Haydn Long. “Overall, I think Bali will continue to be a really popular choice for Australian travelers, but it is certainly possible that some people may consider other alternatives in the current climate.”

Online travel agency Webjet said demand from Australians for flights to Bali had in fact risen by 42 percent over the past four weeks compared with the same period a year earlier.

The chief executive, John Guscic, said there was often little link between overseas events and traveling habits.

“Whenever there has been a political event historically, if there is a period of suppressed bookings, it picks up very quickly and reverts to the underlying performance of the market,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported him saying.

Bali 9 executions

Some Australians have vowed on social media never to visit Indonesia again using the #BoycottBali or #BoycottIndonesia hashtags. Others, however, say such views are hypocritical, given several other popular travel destinations use the death sentence, and a boycott would only harm local people who depend on tourism.

Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, condemned the eight executions as “cruel and unnecessary.” Filipina Mary Jane Veloso’s execution was postponed at the last minute.

But despite the unprecedented step of recalling his ambassador, he said the relationship between Australia and Indonesia “is important, remains important, will always be important, will become more important as time goes by.”

Indonesia says it takes a hard line because of the country’s own drugs problem – 33 Indonesians die every day as a result of drugs, according to Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency. The country has some of the toughest drug laws in the world and ended a four-year moratorium on executions in 2013.

Indonesia Travel News via http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-32527626

Indonesia tourism marketing and public relations firm

Crossbow Communications specializes in international marketing, issue management and public affairs. Indonesia is one of our regions of expertise. Our President and founder is the author of the Language and Travel Guide to Indonesia. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com. Visit Indonesia.

Language and Travel Guide To Indonesia

Indonesia Allows More Tourists To Visit Without Visa

Australians Left Off List Over Human Rights Criticism

Indonesia will soon allow tourists from an additional 30 countries to visit without a visa, but neighboring Australia was left off the list amid a row over looming executions of foreign prisoners.

The move comes as Jakarta seeks to boost a faltering economy, while attracting more foreign income as the rupiah rapidly weakens. Indonesia currently only allows tourists from 15 countries, mostly in Southeast Asia, to visit without a visa. People from a number of other countries can buy one upon arrival.

Mt. Bromo Java Indonesia

 

The 30 countries added to the list are mainly European, but also include China, Russia and several others in Asia, the United States and some nations in the Middle East and Africa, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said.

“People who want to travel to Indonesia won’t need to worry about a visa any more,” Yahya said on Monday. “We hope that we can attract an additional one million foreign tourists,” he added.

Indonesia has long lagged behind its neighbors in attracting foreign visitors. In 2013, 8.8 million foreign visitors came to Indonesia, according to official figures, compared with 25.72 million in Malaysia and 26.55 million in Thailand.

Australia – which accounted for more than 10 percent of Indonesia’s foreign visitors in 2013 – was not included in the list of countries whose citizens will no longer require a visa. Ties between Indonesia and Australia have deteriorated in recent months as Jakarta prepares to execute two Australian drug traffickers on death row who were convicted of trying to smuggle heroin out of Bali.

Bali Indonesia tourism

Yahya denied the row had played a role, suggesting that Australia was excluded from the list because its own policy required visiting Indonesians to have a visa.

“If we give visa-free travel to Australia, we have to be given the same thing,” Yahya said. “It cannot be that we give it to them first.”

Lombok Indonesia snorkeling

Indonesia’s economy has been hard hit as investors withdraw funds and redirect them back towards more developed markets, which have recently been showing signs of renewed strength. The economic woes have seen the rupiah sink to a 17-year low against the dollar in recent days.

Indonesia Tourism News via http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1740576/indonesia-allow-tourists-30-more-countries-visit-without-visa

Indonesia tourism marketing and public relations firm

Crossbow Communications specializes in international marketing, issue management and public affairs. Indonesia is one of our regions of expertise. Our President and founder is the author of the Language and Travel Guide to Indonesia. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com. Visit Indonesia.

Language and Travel Guide To Indonesia

Indonesia Pays Tribute To Tsunami Victims, Anniversary

Tsunami Struck Sumatra, Southeast Asia

Thousands of people held a memorial on Thursday in Indonesia’s Aceh province, the epicenter of the Indian Ocean tsunami, as the world prepared to mark a decade since a disaster that took 220,00 lives and laid waste to coastal areas in 14 countries.

tsunami memorial Indonesia

On December 26, 2004 a 9.3-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia’s western coast sparked a series of gigantic waves that wrought destruction across countries as far apart as Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Somalia. Among the victims were thousands of foreign visitors enjoying Christmas on the region’s sun-kissed beaches, striking tragedy into homes around the world.

In Indonesia’s province of Aceh, Vice-President Jusuf Kalla led tributes to the dead at the Siron mass grave. In Aceh’s capital, Banda Aceh, Mr. Kalla thanked local volunteers and the outside world for helping Aceh recover from the tragedy. He also presented awards to ambassadors from the donor nations.

Banda Aceh Sumatra Indonesia tsunami

Muslim clerics, tsunami survivors and rescue workers led around 7,000 mourners gathered at Banda Aceh’s black-domed Baiturrahman Grand Mosque for memorial prayers late Thursday.

Malaysian cleric Syeikh Ismail Kassim said he and several hundred compatriots attended to show support for Aceh.

“We hope Aceh people will not waver as a result of the calamity that has befallen them,” he told AFP.

Aceh governor Zaini Abdullah thanked Indonesians and the international community in his address at the mosque, one of the few buildings which withstood the wrath of the massive earthquake and ensuing waves which left 170,000 people in the country dead or missing.

Sulawesi sunset

“The tsunami had caused deep sorrow to Aceh residents from having lost their loved ones,” he said. “Sympathy from Indonesians and the international community has helped (Aceh) to recover,” he added. He also called on residents not to “dwell in our grief, so that we could rise from adversity and achieve a better Aceh”.

Kamaruddin, a fisherman who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said he attended the prayers to remember his wife and three children who died in the tsunami.

“I hope there will be no more disasters in Aceh,” the 50-year-old said.

In Meulaboh, a fishing town considered to be the ground zero of the tsunami – where massive waves flattened almost everything – Indonesian flags were flown at half-mast as small groups of residents held night prayers at mosques. The main memorials were planned for Friday morning, starting in Aceh which was hit first by the waves, then moving to Thailand where candlelit ceremonies are expected in the resort hubs of Phuket and Khao Lak.

Indonesia map

There will also be events in Sri Lanka, including at the site where a train carrying 1,500 people was washed away, as well as in several European capitals to remember foreign nationals who perished.

Many of the tsunami’s victims died in dark, churning waters laden with uprooted trees, boats, cars and eviscerated beach bungalows, as the waves surged miles inland and then retreated, sucking many more into the sea.

Thailand saw 5,395 people killed by the disaster – half of them foreign tourists.

British survivor Andy Chaggar was in a bungalow on Thailand’s Khao Lak when the tsunami waves struck, taking his girlfriend’s life and sweeping him inland.

“I came to in the water… there was glass, metal, there were pieces of wood, bricks, it was like being in a washing machine full of nails,” he told AFP on Thursday, on the same beach where he lost his girlfriend.

As the scale of the tragedy emerged, disaster-stricken nations struggled to mobilise a relief effort, leaving bloated bodies to pile up under the tropical sun or in makeshift morgues.

The world poured money and expertise into the relief and reconstruction, with more than US$13.5 billion (S$17.8 billion) collected in the months after the disaster. Almost US$7 billion in aid went into rebuilding more than 140,000 houses across Aceh, thousands of kilometres of roads, and new schools and hospitals.

The vast majority of Indonesia’s 170,000 victims perished in the province, among them tens of thousands of children. But the disaster also ended a decades-long separatist conflict, with a peace deal between rebels and Jakarta struck less than a year later. It also prompted the establishment of a pan-ocean tsunami warning system, made up of sea gauges and buoys, while individual countries have invested heavily in disaster preparedness.

But experts have cautioned against the perils of “disaster amnesia” creeping into communities vulnerable to tsunamis.

Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/as-world-honours-the-dead/1549754.html

Indonesia tourism marketing and public relations firm

Crossbow Communications specializes in international marketing, issue management and public affairs. Indonesia is one of our regions of expertise. Our President and founder is the author of the Language and Travel Guide to Indonesia. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com. Visit Indonesia.

Language and Travel Guide To Indonesia

Joko Indonesia’s New President

Can Leader Stop Rainforest Destruction

Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo claimed victory in a closely fought Indonesian presidential election, while his rival disputed the unofficial vote count and said he wouldn’t concede.

Joko Widodo

As early counts from Indonesia’s presidential election show Joko Widodo with a narrow lead over Prabowo Subianto, the WSJ’s Ramy Inocencio asks ISEAS’s Alex Arifianto which of the two candidates has stronger religious credentials in the Muslim nation.

Mr. Widodo, who saw his once-commanding lead in opinion polls evaporate in recent months, declared that he won based on unofficial vote tallies by independent organizations that showed him with a lead of 3-6 percentage points.

Those organizations had been roughly accurate in using quick counts of a sampling of polling stations to predict results of April legislative elections.

But Prabowo Subianto, a former army general from the era of authoritarian ruler Suharto, said he wouldn’t concede. His camp said pollsters used by his campaign indicated he likely won by as much as four percentage points. Mr. Subianto said he would announce his official stance only after those pollsters neared the end of their counts, while his campaign manager, Mohammad Mahfud, accused the Widodo camp of waging a “cyberwar” by spreading news of his win based on other pollsters. Official election results aren’t expected until after July 20.

“It’s very close and divisive race,” said Yohanes Sulaiman, a lecturer at Indonesia Defense University. “I would’ve waited at least a few more hours until there was a definite count.”

Hundreds of thousands of police and troops were deployed across the country to keep order before the polls opened, with the military cautioning that a margin of victory of less than 5% could lead to unrest in a nation where elections have largely been peaceful affairs.

Indonesia rupiah

There were no signs of disorder throughout the polling day in the archipelago nation. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for calm from both sides. Supporters of the candidates planned gatherings later in the day.

Mr. Widodo called on his backers to monitor the election bodies working on the official count “so there is no intervention.”

“Don’t tarnish what the people want today,” he said.

The election was the most polarizing in the 16 years since Mr. Suharto’s ouster ushered in an era of reform in the Southeast Asian nation, and looked set to ensure Indonesia’s standing as the region’s strongest democracy.

About 135 million voters went to the polls to choose a successor to Mr. Yudhoyono, who will step down in October after meeting a term limit of 10 years. In that time, he stabilized the country and led an economic boom.

Mr. Widodo was a little-known mayor from central Java, the country’s main island, when he burst onto the national scene in 2012 by winning a gubernatorial race in Jakarta, the capital, which is home to 10 million people. He has championed bureaucratic reform and presented himself as a man of the people in a nation long ruled by members of the elite and the military.

Mt. Bromo Java Indonesia

Mr. Subianto has campaigned for the presidency for a decade. He was dismissed from the army for human-rights abuses in the wake of the downfall of his then father-in-law, Suharto. He has since built a career in business and politics. Mr. Subianto has played to desires by many Indonesians for strong leadership and has called into question some of the post-1998 reforms that he says have given rise to corruption and inefficiencies.

The country of 250 million people is facing pressing questions on how to grow a time when it needs to move its economy toward manufacturing and other value-added industries from a model reliant on commodity exports. It also badly needs to build ports, roads and power plants to reinvigorate growth.

“The reality is that the Indonesian economy faces a tough few years ahead,” said OCBC economist Wellian Wiranto, who said the country had passed a test of its young democracy. “While the debate so far has been how to maximize the country’s hold on natural resources, Indonesia’s future really lies with its human resources and how to best utilize the country’s young population to develop it into a manufacturing hub.”

Indonesia forest conservation

“Indonesia has to have that conversation soon,” he said.

Either man will also face a heavily splintered parliament that has often blocked the current president. Economists say the new leader’s first task will be to rein in populist fuel subsidies, which have ballooned amid rising consumption in recent years and left little budget funding free for infrastructure spending.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/articles/polls-open-in-indonesia-presidential-race-1404872776

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